Bill Withers was an aspiring musician, but he kept his feet on the ground for a long time. Even after his first album started to climb the charts, he kept working his job assembling bathrooms in an airplane factory because he thought the music industry was fickle. He wasn’t wrong, incidentally. But in his case he may have been pessimistic. It wasn’t until “Ain’t No Sunshine” went Gold that he finally left the factory job and went on tour to support the album.
Given the star power that supported him with the recording of his debut album, Just As I Am, it’s a small wonder that he became such a huge star right away. When you’ve got Booker T. Jones producing and the rest of the MGs, plus Stephen Stills and Jim Keltner on drums, you’re going to be a huge hit. Or, maybe you’re not nearly as good as you think you are, and you may as well spend the rest of your life in that factory.
“Ain’t No Sunshine” wasn’t the first single off the album. And I don’t think I’m spoiling any surprises here when I tell you this: It isn’t too tough to figure out how it got all the airplay, and eventually all the sales, that it did.
Oh—and, as promised, here’s the video of the cover by the Black Label Society from a few years back. They’re a heavy metal band, but this cover is mostly acoustic. Zakk Wylde kind of digs the negative attention that the video got for the use of the horse masks (and more) that you’ll see in this video. But maybe just lean back and enjoy it instead of reading into it too deeply.
I’m aiming for the next show to drop on January 3, so until then: have a Happy and Safe New Year!